Friday, February 27, 2009

Preseason News and Notes - 2/24

Quiet week for the Rapids, bout a couple moves of interest.

  • Rapids acquire the rights to Gregory Richardson
Richardson last played for T*T's Joe Public and burned the Revs for 4 goals in their CONCACAF Champions League matchup last season. This put him on the radars of all the MLS teams. Toronto had first dibs on him and brought him into camp this preseason but deemed him surplus to their needs. The Rapids are very thin up front and it only cost them a 2nd Round pick to acquire his rights. Probably a good move, we'll see if he's more Melven Tarley or Maykel Galindo.

  • Rapids face road trip to LA for US Open Cup first-round play-in
Despite a press release that ALL teams would play in the U.S. Open Cup this year MLS has decided to use the same qualification as last year. This means the Rapids must beat LA in LA, like they did last year, and then beat the winner of the FSL-Seattle matchup just to get to the USOC. We play LA on April 7th at 8:30 MDT. Honestly, with the amount of travel we have early in the season, I expect a quick end to our USOC hopes.

UPDATE: The Rapids have informed me, in case anyone was wondering, that home field for both USOC qualification rounds this year is being determined by a coin flip.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Weekend Roundup 2.21 - 2/22

Colorado Rapids - No games, but less than a month away from the start of the season!

Queen of the South
- QoS hosted league leaders (and historical feuding family) St. Johnstone. If the Doonhamers had any remaining hope for promotion this was a must win game. Both sides looked up for the challenge with end to end action but it was Queens who broke through before half to take the lead, and they then doubled it shortly after the break. Johnstone wouldn't give up though, and managed to equalize only for Queens to take the lead again 2 minutes later. Unfortunately QoS couldn't hold on to it for long enough and conceded the tying goal with less than 5 minutes to play. While a draw against the league leaders is usually a good thing, it was 2 points left on the pitch for Queens. With the draw the Doonhamers slip to 7th in the league, just 4 points out of the relegation playoff spot with 7 games to play (but Clyde in 9th has two games in hand).

Blackburn Rovers - Battling relegation the last place Rovers wanted to go was Old Trafford but ManUre was on the schedule this week so off they went. The Red Devils came in with a long league-winning streak and over 21 hours of perfect defense. As expected United scored first, just past the midway point of the first half. Roque Santa Cruz did what nobody could do for 22 hours before him though, and scored a great equalizer to bring Rovers back into the match. The game was a back and forth affair after that, with the only difference being a Ronaldo free kick that Robinson couldn't stop. Ryan Nelsen almost had his first ever Rovers goal later but the post denied him and Blackburn was unlucky to get out without a point.

The week got worse today as the team travelled to Coventry for the FA Cup replay. It was one game too many as Blackburn dropped out of the FA Cup on a 1-0 defeat. This leaves the rovers with only survival to play for and with 13 games to play they are two points from safety. They do hold a game in hand over the rest of the field. That game at Fulham will be played after all the other games of the season are complete, and may be a win or go down situation.

CD Tenerife - Tenerife went back to the mainland to play Huesca this week. After the first 10 minutes the CDT defense was rarely tested, while the Huesca keeper was quite busy. Unfortunately he was up to the task, stopping shot after shot, and the game ended in a scoreless draw. Tenerife stays in second place but is now 5 points back of leader Xerez. They are in the promotion zone by only 2 points, but other results have created a gap between 4th and 5th place. Still 17 games to go though, so anything could happen.

Kildare County - Kildare got news this week that their application for a 1st Division license was successful! Prior 1st Division side Cobh Ramblers could only meet the standards for the "A" Championship this year so they will be relegated and the Thoroughbreds will stay up in their place. Surely a chance for Kildare to turn things around from last season as they can't expect to get saved from relegation two years in a row. The season starts in two weeks with Kildare hosting Finn Harps on Friday March 6th.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Preseason News and Notes - 2/17

There has been a bit of Rapids news over the last couple of days.
  • Rapids lose their first preseason match against MLS competition 1-0 to Dallas.
The Rapids beat down a couple of college sides 3-0, but when they played some real competition their guns went silent. Looking at the lineups its obvious that Gary Smith wasn't concerned about the result, he was more interested in getting as many players time as he could. Understandable in pre-season, but given the lack of competition we seem to have this year I'd like to see a solid 11 play against other MLS teams.
  • Rapids sign Ihemelu and Cummings to long-term deals.
Ugo and Omar join Kimura, Harvey, LaBrocca, Clark, Pickens, and Mastroeni in getting new deals this offseason. That's a solid nucleus of young players and a couple of veterans to build the team around for the next couple of seasons. I'm not sold on these most recent two players (Ihemelu and Cummings) but I'm willing to give them another season to improve before writing them off. Almost as interesting are the long-term players who haven't gotten a new contract like Mehdi Ballouchy, Jacob Peterson, and Stephen Keel. Iy makes you wonder if they're on the outside looking in at the new reduced roster size.
  • Rapids are pursuing Jason Euell of Southampton.
I like the fact that the Rapids are looking for a new striker or attacking mid, and are willing to look overseas for an experienced player. I don't think a player that has bounced around the Championship and lower EPL sides like Euell has is necessarily the answer. I don't remember him as a player that really made his team better, more of one that raised or lowered his play to the level of the team. I will say that Bravo and Smith seem to be making good moves so far this offseason, so I'm willing to trust them to some extent, but if this is going to be our big offseason move (other than trading Gomez) then I hope its one that pays off. The Rapids have yet to be real successful with an international attacking player other than John Spencer.
  • Rapids announced Burgundy and Blue game plans
Since the Rapids moved into the Dick they have hosted a Burgundy & Blue intrasquad scrimmage the week before the opener. It was open to Commerce City residents and season ticket holders at no charge. This year they're changing up the plan for the game. It will be held on Tuesday March 24th, in between the season opener at Chivas and the home opener against KC. Instead of an intra-squad scrimmage the Rapids will play a full preseason game against Metro State College. The game will also be free admission for anyone who's interested, instead of limiting it to Commerce City references and season ticket holders. My only concern about this is the chance of tiring players out by playing a game in between two league matches. If its treated more like a reserve match though I've got no issues.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Weekend Roundup 2/14 - 2/15

Queen of the South - QoS hosted Aridrie United at Palmerston this week, looking for their first win in front of their fans in over 4 months. The game got off to a good start with Queens being awarded a penalty after the half hour mark and converting it for a 1-0 lead. Right at halftime Airdire was down a man as their man attempted a two footed tackle of the Doonhamers keeper. That was all the help South needed as they piled on in the second half to the tune of 3 more goals and a 4-0 win. With the victory QoS finally gets out of the bottom of the table, moving all the way up to 6th, with a full 3 points separating them from the relegation zone. With 12 games to play the Doonhamers are only 5 points out of second place, though Dunfermline does have 2 games in hand. Its a full 12 points to the top of the table and promotion, so that is probably out of reach now.

Blackburn Rovers - An Alpha and Omega game for Blackburn as they hosted Championship side Coventry City in the 5th Round of the FA Cup. Roque Santa Cruz scored just 90 seconds into the game, and Rovers controlled play for most of the first half. They apparently thought that was enough as they took most of the second half off, allowing Coventry to come back and score not once, but twice. Just when it looked like the Cup run was over Chris Samba scored with 2 minutes left in stoppage time to tie the game. This leads to a replay (the last thing Rovers need) in Coventry a week from Wednesday. The winners get the reward of hosting Chelsea in the quarterfinals.

CD Tenerife - CDT hosted bottom half side Elche in front of over 19,000 fans in Santa Cruz. Tenerife is battling some injury issues with up to 4 starters not available for the starting lineup. CDT won the first half, controlling play and leading 1-0 at the break. 2 minutes into the second half Elche levelled the score though, and 15 minutes later the visitors took the lead. Tenerife wouldn't quit though, and with some inspired offensive substitutions CDT drew the game, then took the lead 3-2. Some strong defending protected the lead and Tenerife continued their good run. The win kept them in 2nd place, 3 points behind the leaders and in a promotion spot by 3 points with 18 games to play.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Roster Cuts

The Rapids announced today that draft picks Jordan Seabrook, Kevin Forrest, and Henry Kalungi have been cut from the roster, along with returning player Brian Grazier. Victims of the smaller roster sizes. This leaves the Rapids with 27 players for 24 positions, 5 of which are draft picks that have yet to be signed to an MLS contract.

The biggest issue right now is that the Rapids only have 2 true forwards under contract, Conor Casey and Omar Cummings, plus 2 draft picks in Adjeman-Pamboe and Schunk trying to make the team in backup roles. I highly doubt that having just two experienced forwards, one of which has been batteling injury issues for the last few seasons, is a ticket to success in MLS. Hopefully the Smith & Bravo team have more moves planned.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Rapids trade Christian Gomez, regain their DP slot.

The news is starting to break that the long-rumored trade of Christian Gomez back to DC United has been finalized. Right now it appears the Rapids are sending Christian Gomez, goalkeeper Mike Graczyk, and an international spot to DC. They are also picking up an unannounced amount of Gomez's salary for 2009. In return the Rapids are getting their DP slot back, Ivan Guerrero (pictured), DC's 2nd Round pick next year, and salary cap considerations.

I'm guessing that the Rapids are picking up a large chunk of Gomez' salary, but that the "salary cap considerations" are DC picking up the actual hit of much of that on the salary cap, giving the Rapids the flexibility to use the DP slot. We had too many keepers, so losing Graczyk won't hurt us. According to MLSnet Omar Cummings and Guerrero appear to be our only international players on the roster right now (though the statuses of Ballouchy, Cooke, and Kimura seem to be unclear) so losing the international slot shouldn't hurt much.

Getting our DP slot back is a big step with a new coach. It gives Smith the flexibility to go out and find a player he needs. Guerrero will push Harvey and Clark on the left, and give us some cover in case of injury. A draft pick never hurts, but the draft is becoming less and less important every year.

Overall I think this is a decent to good recovery from the disastrous trade that brought Gomez here last spring. I'm not sure who gets the credit for this in the trio of Plush, Bravo, or Smith but given the job descriptions I think its Paul Bravo. Another good step for our new Technical Director.

UPDATE: The news of the Rapids getting salary cap considerations was mis-reported. Its DC who's getting the salary cap considerations, int he form of the rapids picking up some of Gomez' salary.

Weekend Roundup 2/7 - 2/8

Queen of the South - Off this week due to FA Cup action in Scotland

Blackburn Rovers - Blackburn welcomed former Blackburn and American star Big Bad Brad Friedel and the rest of his Aston Villa teammates to Ewood Park. Unfortunately for Rovers, the difference between the top and bottom oft he EPL table was apparent in this match. Blackburn was both lucky and unlucky to end up with a 2-0 loss. Villa controlled most of the game, but failed to put Rovers away until the very end when they got their second goal. Before that time Blackburn had 3-4 legitimate calls for a penalty that were ignored by the ref. Had they gotten at least one of those calls they would have had a good chance at tying the game at 1-1 and maybe escaping with an undeserved point. Instead they picked up their first loss under new manager Sam Allardyce. The good news is that the other 3 teams at the bottom of the table also lost, keeping Blackburn just 1 point from safety.

CD Tenerife - Tenerife continues their high-flying season by welcoming in Eibar to the Heliodoro Rodriguez Lopez on Sunday. They played in front of a large crowd of 18,000, significantly more people that we're there the day I saw them play. While CDT did not play well, they still got the job done with a goal midway through the first half and a second one in second half stoppage time. The win keeps Tenerife near the top of the table, 3 points behind leaders Zerex and 3 points ahead of Zaragoza, solidly int he second promotion spot. With another home game next week hopefully CDT can cement their place in the top 3 and push for promotion to La Liga.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Review: The Game of Their Lives (aka The Miracle Match)

The Game of their Lives (retitled The Miracle Match for the DVD release) is a 2005 film telling the story of the 1950 U.S. World Cup team that shocked the world by beating England 1-0. If Al Michaels were covering the match in 1950 he would have used his "Do you believe in miracles? YES" line for this team instead of the 1980 Olympic Hockey team.

The story is told from the perspective of the lone American reporter cover the World Cup, Dent McSkimming. Scenes of a older McSkimming (played by Patrick Stewart) being interviewed by MLS announcer and son of the 1950's team goalkeeper Ty Keough before the start of a MLS All-Star game. bookend the movie.

The movie spends the first half showing us the formation of the team, starting in St. Louis where most of the players lived and then moving to New York where other team members join the team, including Haitian Joe Gaetjens. The rules about nationalities weren't so strictly enforced in 1950 as they are now, and Gaetjens was working on his citizenship when invited to join the team. After the typical Hollywood "team bonding" scenes the squad leaves for the World Cup in Brazil.

In Brazil we get to see how little the world thought of the Americans, from being denied hotel rooms with the other squads to having to travel more than other teams, the Americans were clearly disrespected and seen as no threat to the "giants" of the world. Meanwhile we see the heavy favorites of England, in their first ever World Cup, treated like stars and overlooking their game against the Americans. The movie culminates on June 29th, 1950 with the match between England and the U.S. Joe Gaetjens scored int he 37th minute and Harry Keough turned in a goalkeeping performance for the ages as the U.S. upset England 1-0. Some papers in England were so arrogant that they assumed the score that came over the wire was a misprint and reported an 10-0 England win.

Every American soccer fan should see this movie. While it doesn't have the high-gloss of GOAL! or the story that everyone remembers like Miracle, its the same feel of underdogs prevailing. The soccer action is actually pretty good as they got former college and professional players like John Harkes and Nelson Vargas to play the roles of the 1950 players. The movie gives you a glimpse into what soccer was before the evolution into the current professional game over the last 15-20 years. While any movie like this takes its liberties with the "true story" you at least get the general history of what happened in America's only World Cup appearance between 1936 and 1990. I saw this movie shortly after the Americans disastrous performance in World Cup '06. There were a number of people, including myself, who felt like the players didn't "give it all for the shirt" and after seeing this movie you'll get an idea for what that really means.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Mexico - Bolivia March 11th at DSG Park

Just announced officially by the Rapids, SUM, and the Mexican and Bolivian FA's, the Mexican and Bolivian National Teams will play a friendly on March 11th at the Dick. Kickoff is 7pm. Tickets go on sale in 30 minutes if you use a VISA card, next week for all other orders. The Rapids are offering a two pack where you get a ticket to this game and the Rapids home opener as well.

Honestly I'll probably pass on this game. I have no real interest in either team, and I'd prefer to save my money to go to a Rapids road game sometime this season.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Blackburn squeak into the FA Cup 5th Round

10 days ago Blackburn escaped from the Stadium of Light with a scoreless draw. After 90 minutes today the teams were still deadlocked at 1 goal apiece. It took until the 209th minute of football in the two games combined for Benni McCarthy to give Blackburn their first lead, and full time was whistled a minute later to put Rovers through to the final 16. Blackburn will host Championship side Coventry City in the 5th Round on Valentine's Day.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Weekend Roundup 1/31 - 2/1

Sorry for skipping last week, too much Rapids news. I'll do a quick recap of the last two weekends for all 3 teams.

Queen of the South - Last week the Doonhamers hosted Partick Thistle at Palmerston Park. Despite taking the last on two different occasions QoS could not maintain the lead for more than 20 minutes, and walked away with a disappointing 2-2 draw. They then traveled to Dunfermline on Saturday in desperate need of points to avoid relegation. Queens scored midway through each half and controlled the rest of the game to ease to a 2-0 win. This was the first win for QoS in 12 games, dating back to October 25th! It was also the team's first win since the Colorado Rapids Supporters bought shares in the team. With the win QoS moves to 8th place, out of the relegation playoff on goal differential.

Blackburn Rovers - The Rovers played 3 games in the last week with similar results. Last weekend the team traveled to Sunderland for their FA Cup matchup, only to return with a scoreless draw and a scheduled replay at Ewood Park. Midweek Blackburn hosted Bolton and apparently decided that they were only going to play for 45 minutes. Luckily for Rovers it was the second 45 minutes. The team went into the locker room at halftime down 2-0 only to come back in the second half to tie the score at 2-2 and just miss a winning goal in stoppage time as Ryan Nelsen's header went off the base of the post. Over the weekend Rovers were again on the road, this time at Middlesborough where another 0-0 draw awaited. Since Sam Allardyce took over as manager Blackburn has had 3 wins and 4 draws. Not enough to climb out of the relegation zone yet, but the team is only 1 point from safety and is moving in the right direction.

CD Tenerife - CDT has spent the last two weeks on the road. A week ago they travelled to Castellon, only to sleepwalk through the first half. With 20 minutes to play the team woke up and grabbed two goals to escape with a draw. This week they went to Gimnastic, where they played much better. The defense locked down the opposition and Angel found the back of the next midway through the second half to give Tenerife a 1 goal win on the road. With these results CDT is solidly in second place, 3 points behind division leaders Xerez and safely in the promotion zone by 1 point, 1 game past the halfway mark of the season.